Are Sikhs Hindus?
For the sake of historical truth and communal harmony, please allow me to respond to Mr. Niranjan Shah’s column that was published in India tribune of September 28, 2002. Let us not poison the minds of our young children with ignorance, communal hatred and historical myths. Let them grow to be honest, upright and truthful human beings, which the world needs the most, especially, a country like India.
I am glad that he admitted at the outset that the word ‘Hindu’ is not found in Hindu Scriptures and this label was given to the Indian people by outsiders. However, for some reason he failed to inform the readers about the meaning of ‘Hindu’ and gave an absurd explanation that ‘Hindu’ is the Persian equivalent of the Vedic term ‘Sindhu’ used for a river. It is difficult to imagine that a knowledgeable person like Mr. Shah does not know the meaning of ‘Hindu’. Let me explain what the word ‘Hindu’ means.
Indian subcontinent was inhabited by dark complexioned people before the migration of Caucasian people from central Asia. The fair skinned people who lived on the West of Hindu Kush mountain range called the Indian subcontinent the land of the black people. I would like Mr. Shah to explain the meaning of ‘Hindu Kush’. In Persian and Arabic ‘Hindu’ means black, slave and thief. Muslim conquerors used these words for the subjugated Indians. It is ironic and shameful that Mr. Shaw now wants to assign that derogatory label ‘Hindu’ to Sikhs, Jains and Budhists. Did Mr. Shah ask any Sikh or Jain or Budhist about how do they feel when someone calls them Hindu? As a Sikh I would feel highly insulted if some body called me a Hindu. Mr. Shah won’t understand what I am saying because he is totally ignorant about Sikhism as is evident from his column.
Mr. Shah, our Hindu ancestors accepted whatever was dished out to them by outside invaders because the clever and devious Brahmin kept them ignorant like dumb driven cattle. The Brahmin took away all their human dignity and self-respect by using the most cruel and tyrannical ‘caste system’ ever devised by man for the exploitation of man.
Mr. Shah says that the Iranians used the word ‘Hindu’ for the river Sindhu and for the population around Sindhu. If that is so how come neither did the river Sindhu nor the people around Sindhu acquire the name Hindu. The river is called Indus in Greek and Sindh in Panjabi and people who live around this river are called Punjabis or Sindhis whereas the religion of the people of the so-called Aryavarta or Bharavarsha came to be known as Hindu. Does Mr. Shah know any person who calls the State of Sindh as Hind or Sindhis as Hindis? Furthermore, it is absurd to say that the Iranians could not pronounce ‘Sindhu’ due phonetic difficulties, they can pronounce both the sounds of ‘s’ and ‘sh’. How come the people of so-called Aryavarta or Bharavarsha did not correct the Iranians or Greeks to use the proper name ‘Sindhu’? The Greeks who ruled over the territory around Sindh called this river Indus. That is how to Europeans, the so-called Aryavarta or Bharavarsa came to be known as India. The Arabs and Iranians called it Hindustan. Does Mr. Shah know any other people whose religious identity as well as the name of their country was assigned by outsiders? Was Aryavarta or Bharavarsha the name of the country or the name of the religion?
Mr. Shah says that Sikhs are Hindus because the Indian constitution says so, Khushwant Singh says so and for all the things Maha Raja Ranjit Singh did for the Brahmins and Hindus. His statements about Guru Teg Bahadur’s martyrdom or that Guru Gobind Singh sent his five disciples to Benaras to study Sanskrit or that Ranjit Singh was establishing a Hindu Empire in the Northeast are patently false. Let me deal with these arguments one by one.
First, during the debate on the Indian constitution when the clause claiming Sikhs, Budhists and Jains as ‘Hindus’ came for discussion, the two Sikh representatives, Hukam Singh and Bhupinder Singh Mann opposed it vehemently. Their objections were over ruled and the constitution was adopted. No Sikh has ever signed the Indian constitution. The Sikhs have been protesting this unspeakable crime ever since. The world community has been hoodwinked into believing that India is world’s biggest democracy whereas in reality it the biggest tyranny of majority over minorities. Where else in the world much less a democratic country, the majority community decides the ‘religious identity, of minorities. Hindus keep talking day in and day out about the atrocities and forced conversions of Hindus carried out by the Muslim rulers. I agree with this claim without any hesitation. But let us discuss this issue dispassionately. The Muslims ruled over a major portion of the Indian subcontinent for almost seven centuries. In 1947, when the British relinquished their rule, majority of the Indian population, 65-70% was Hindu. Contrast this with what the so-called secular and liberal Hindu rulers lead by Jawahar Lal Nehru did to the minorities shortly after independence. These Hindu leaders converted all Sikhs, Budhists and Jains to Hindus with the stroke of a pen. No Hindu leader worth the name has ever protested against this abominable injustice to the minorities. Let me ask a question to the Hindus living in the United States. How would they react if the US Congress were to pass a law declaring all minorities to be Christians?
Second, Khuswant Singh is not a spokes-person for the Sikh community. He lacks the integrity to be an objective writer. For example, what he wrote about the Sikhs thirty years ago is not the same what he is writing nowadays. During the emergency, he was the staunchest supporter of Indra Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. He used to regard Menka like his own daughter. Recently, he wrote a book with juicy tales slandering all of them. Menka took him to the court to stop the publication of his book. Khuswant Singh is no different than his father. While hundreds of Sikhs kissed the gallows, hundreds were exiled to the isles of black waters and hundreds courted martyrdom in the Jallianwala Bagh to liberate India from the British yoke, Khuswant’s father, Sobha Singh became Sir Sobha Singh enriching himself and his progeny. Khuswant Singh is no different from Hindus who used to regard Mulim rulers as God incarnate (Eeshvro va Dilishvro va, The emperor of Delhi is God incarnate).
Third, I agree with Mr. Shah about all the things Maharaja Ranjit Singh did for the Hindus. But Mr. Shah does not say what the Hindus did in return for this gratitude of the Maharaja. The Brahmins and Dogras (Rajputs) destroyed his kingdom and his family.
Sangat Singh. Sikhs in History, p 94-106.
The final authority on Sikhs and Sikhism is Aad Guru Granth Sahib, Holy Scripture of the Sikhs. This Scripture is unique because unlike other world Scriptures, Sikh Gurus wrote it themselves. Aad Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh Gurus and others who have made in depth studies of Sikihism have confirmed unequivocally that Sikhs are not Hindus.
"We are neither Hindus nor Muslims. Our bodies and breaths belong to the Almighty God, Whom people call Allah or Ram."
Aad Guru Granth Sahib, P 1136.
When Shaikh Braham asked Guru Nanank, "Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?" "I will be telling a lie if I say that I am a Hindu but I am also not a Muslim," averred Guru Nanak.
Sangat Singh. Sikhs in History, p 14.
The Sikh Gurus rejected all the essentials of Hinduism and the moral authority of Hindu Scriptures.
Sangat Singh. The Sikhs in History, p 15.
Jagtar Singh Grewal. The Sikhs of the Punjab, p31.
Jagjit Singh. The Sikh Revolution, p 105.
Hindus have created a myth that Sikh Gurus were Hindu reformers and that the Hidus supported their movement wholeheartedly.
First, only the first four Gurus were born in Hindu families, the later six Gurus were the descendents of the fourth Guru, Ram Das. Guru Nanak rejected Hinduism the very day he refused to bear the sacred thread (Janeu), which was essential for a Hindu of Khatri caste. The other three Gurus, Angad Dev, Amar Das and Ram Das rejected Hinduism when they became followers of the Nankian philosophy.
Second, how could Sikh Gurus be considered Hindu reformers if they rejected all the essentials of Hinduism and the moral authority of Hindu Scriptures?
Third, contrary to the myth that Hindus supported the Sikh movement wholeheartedly, high caste section of the Hindu society (Brahmins, Rajputs and Khatris) opposed it vehemently from the very beginning.
Let me highlight the attitude of the high caste Hindus towards the Sikh movement from the time of Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak rejected the sacred thread, befriended a low caste Muslim Mirasi named Mardana and called him Bhai (brother) Mardana. Bhai Mardana accompanied Guru Nanak during his odysseys and remained his devoted friend and follower till his death. Guru Nanak stayed in the homes of Shudars partaking their food and traveled to Muslim countries to preach his message of universal love and equality under One and Only God. He proclaimed his solidarity loudly with the downtrodden.
"I will stand by lowest of the lowest caste rather than with the arrogant and rich of the high caste. Societies which take care of their downtrodden enjoy the blessing of Merciful God."
Aad Guru Granth Sahib, p 15 .
Guru Nanak also repudiated the caste system by introducing the concept of Sangat and Pangat among his follwers. Sangat means a congregation where all irrespective of their caste, creed and gender participate in divine Kirtan (recitals) and religious discourses. Pangat means sharing of community meal where all irrespective of their caste, creed and gender sit together in a row to partake food.
Sangat Singh. The Sikhs in History, p 18.
The high caste Hindus (Brahmins, Rajputs and Khatris) retaliated by calling Guru Nanak a Karahia (one who follows a wrong path).
As the Sikh movement grew stronger, the High caste Hindus started harassing the Sikhs. For example, they would not allow Sikhs to fetch water from their community wells and ponds or allow them to live in their neighborhoods. The Sikh Gurus established their own towns and dug up wells and ponds. Since the rulers of the country were Muslims, the Hindus could not take any direct action against the Sikh movement, which was growing stronger day by day. Therefore, they complained to Emperor Akabar that Guru Amar Das was defiling the traditions and religion of our forefathers by abolishing the caste distinctions among his followers. Guru Amardas sent his trusted and devoted Sikh, Bhai Jetha to answer these allegations. Bhai Jetha explained to the Emperor, " We have abandoned the traditions and religion of our forefathers not to offend any body, but to practice a new faith of universal love and equality founded by Guru Nanak."
The Emperor found no merit in their complaint and dismissed it. The Emperor himself paid a visit to Guru Amardas in Goindwal. He was so much impressed with the concept of Langar (community kitchen) that he granted revenue of several villages for the maintenance of the community kitchen.
Sangat Singh. The Sikhs in History, p 21-23.
Emperor Akbar’s relations with the Sikh Guru were very cordial, However, Guru Arjan's growing influence and popularity was irksome not only to high caste Hindus but also to conservative Muslim clergy. People like Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi complained to prince Salim about the growing influence of Sikh faith, which was becoming an obstacle in the Islamisation of India. On the other hand high caste Hindus saw Sikhism as challenge to their way of life, the caste system. They conspired with Hindu government officials like Chandu, Birbal, Raja Mann Singh (maternal uncle of Salim) and Salim’s Rajput mother against Guru Arjan Dev. When Salim (Jahangir) became the Emperor after Akbar’s death, he ordered Chandu to torture Guru Arjan Dev to death. Shortly after that, government officials of Lahore and the Khatris started hostile activities against Guru Hagobind Sahib, the successor of Guru Arjan Dev. In the ensuing skirmishes Guru Hargobind Sahib scored decisive victories. Guru Hargobind Sahib’s army also had a contingent of Muslims. Bhagwan Das Gherar, his son Rattan Chand and Chandu’s son, Karam Chand were killed in action. The Guru built a mosque for the Muslims in the village of Hargobindpur. This mosque is preserved as a historical site and it is called ‘Guru Ki Masit’.
Sangat Singh. The Sikhs in History, p 27-38.
Later on when Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa Order and gave a clarion call to the downtrodden of India to come under his banner to fight the oppression of Mughals and the tyranny of caste system, the Rajput kings of hills adjoining Punjab declared war against him. In the battle of Bhangani a Muslim divine, Pir Budhu Shah helped Guru Gobind Singh. The Pir lost two sons and many followers in the battle. After a bitter defeat the Rajput kings appealed to Emperor Aurangjeb to come to their aide. Guru’s forces were no match against the combined forces of Rajputs and the Emperial army. When most of the Sikhs including Guru Gobind Singh’s two older sons and three Piaras (Beloved) courted martyrdom, the Sikhs asked Guru Gobind Singh to leave the battle field and move to the safety of Malwa region. Muslim friends and followers like the Khan brothers, Rai Kalah and others helped Guru Gobind Singh at this critical juncture. On the other hand Guru Gobind Singh’s one time household employee, Gangu Brahmin (Ganga Dhar Kaul) betrayed Guru’s mother and his six and eight years old sons. He handed them over to the government officials for a monetary reward. When Wazir Khan, the Subedar of Sirhind was unable to convince the young ones to convert to Islam, he ordered their execution. Nawab Sher Mohamad of Malerkotla reminded Wazir Khan that Quran forbids the killing of young children whereas Diwan Sucha Nand Bhandari urged Wazir Khan to execute the young ones by saying, "The offspring of a poisonous snake are also poisonous snakes." The young ones were tortured before being bricked alive.
Sangat Singh. The Sikhs in History, p 54-65.
During the early part of eighteenth century the Muslim rulers and their Hindu collaborators carried out systematic extermination of the Sikh population. There were two major massacres of the Sikhs known as big and small Ghalooghara (holocaust). Ahmed Shah Abdali carried out one of the massacre while Diwan Lakhpat Rai was responsible for the other. The later took a vow "Nanak, a Khatri started this hoax of Sikhism and I a Khatri will destroy it."
Sangat Singh. The Sikhs in History, p 77-82.
More recently, Indra Gandhi and Jail Singh promoted an obscure country preacher, Sant Jarnail Singh Bindranwala as a Sikh religious leader. He was provided with wherewithal to preach his message. After equipping with arms, he was installed in the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex. In June 1984 the Indian government ordered a military attack on the Harimandir Sahib complex to flush out Bhindranwala and his 40 associates while simultaneously attacking forty other Gurdwaras in Punjab. The Indian government chose to attack on the very day when Sikhs were celebrating the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed. This was a warning to the Sikhs by the Hindu leaders that if the Hindus could get Guru Arjan Dev killed during the Mughal rule, imagine what Hindus could do when they are rulers of the country? From my interaction with Hindu students and faculty members during my studies at Benars Hindu University (1960-1962), I was convinced that Hindu morality is different from that of others. For example, the British colonists, returned the bodies of the victims to their relatives, paid some financial compensation to the victim’s families and apologized for the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh. On the contrary, the bodies of the Sikh victims of 1984 massacre were not returned to their relatives because the Indian government disposed of the bodies by burning or throwing them in rivers and deep canals. No Hindu government official up-to-date has expressed any remorse for the killing of thousands of innocent Sikh men, women and children by their own government.
Hinduism is altogether different from Sikhism theologically. Let me illustrate this point by citing two passages from Aad Guru Granth Sahib one by Guru Nanak Dev and the other by Bhagat Nam Dev addressed to a Brahmin priest.
"The gods and goddesses whom you worship and to whom you pray, what can they give? You wash them yourselves; left to themselves, they will sink in the water. There is no merit in the worship of statues."
Aad Guru Granth sahib, p 637.
Bhagat Nam Dev was tormented and not allowed entry into the temple due to his low caste. He expressed his anguish in a hymn addressed to a Brahmin priest.
"Listen o Pandey, I meditate on the Almighty God and I have found Him. O ignorant one, what have you gained from your holy mantras and gods? I have heard that your gyatri was a cow in previous life. When she strayed into the crop of a farmer, named Loda, he broke her leg with a club and she became lame. I have heard about your god Shiv Ji, the rider of white bull. He went to the house of generous person for a feast. He didn’t like the food, so he killed that man’s son with a curse. I have also heard about your god Ram Chandar Ji. He fought with Ravan, who took away his wife. Hindu is blind to God due to his worship of idols of gods and goddesses and practice of caste system whereas a Muslim who worships God is partially blind to God due to his bigotry. Wiser than both is he who sees God in all. Temples are sacred to the Hindus whereas mosques are sacred to the Muslims. However, Nam Dev focuses his mind on the One and Only, Who is not restricted either to the temple or the mosque."
Aad Guru Granth Sahib, p 875.
Most of the Sikhs are ethnically and culturally related to Punjabi Hindus and Muslims, as the ancestors of Sikhs were either Hindus or Muslims. The overwhelming majority of ancestors of Indian Muslims were also Hindus as pointed out by Mr. Shah. However, after 1947 the high caste Punjabi Hindus disowned the Punjabi language and culture of their ancestors thus severing their cultural ties with Sikhs.
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